Complexity and policy bubbles

sheepThe nature of the mathematics that causes bubbles and herding is truly complex and non-linear. This means that a very small (perhaps undetectable, perhaps entirely random) change in circumstances can set of a chain reaction that causes a massive bubble; although nothing really significant has changed apart from the way the feedback grows to cause a big fuss. Not a fuss about nothing, but about things that in many or most cases would not have a big fuss – if the tiny tipping point has gone the other way.

Moshe Maor makes some interesting points about ‘Policy Bubbles’ but does not engage entirely with the mathematical processes behind herding that make this interesting as a ‘complex’ or ‘chaos’ idea. This is a great read at

Is anyone doing research to establish where bubbles have happened with no particular reason other than the nature of mathematics and the nature of ‘bubbles’?

It seems to me that this would be more fruitful and possibly more falsifiable or confirmable than looking for a myriad of reasons, other than the nonlinear mathematics, of why some issues mushroom.

I am afraid that if you look for a reason where there is none, or where it was so small as to be unimportant except as a ‘tipper’; you will find them where they don’t really exist.

In a forthcoming chapter on complexity, Paul Cairney and I discuss how the traditional ’cause and effect’ notions and ‘looking for reasons’ need to be transformed towards ‘exploring environments’ and ‘understanding systems’. We also make an appeal to researchers to understand at least some of the mathematics beneath complexity in political science when they embark on studies in such areas. Research on policy bubbles suggests that a harsh initial hypothesis, based on mathematics, of ‘this could happen with no generalisable cause’ may not be a bad place to start. And then, proving, disproving or not being able to do either would be equally enjoyable and enlightening.

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About stuartastill

Consultant: interested in analysis that impacts politics i.e. everything! Can do difficult equations - but avoids when working with humans
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